Anemia in Goats: Causes, Symptoms and Treatment

22 Jul

It’s that time of year when about every other search engine term bringing someone to my blog includes “goat” and “anemia.”  I guess that means it’s time to talk about it again.  I know I’ve talked about it before, but not an all-in-one post.  It does seem like goats are very susceptible to anemia, the lack of red blood cells in the body.  It can be fatal if not treated.


Blood Loss.  If there is a large blood loss due to an injury, that causes anemia.  The more likely cause of anemia due to blood loss is parasites.  This can be ticks, fleas, lice, or internal parasites (worms).  The haemonchus (barber pole or round) worm is probably the leading cause of anemia in goats.

Diet.  If a goat does not have a proper diet, it can become anemic.  Some areas do not have enough iron or copper naturally in the soil to provide it in the browse the goat is eating.  It’s best to check with a local vet to see if there is enough iron/copper in your area.  Also, just not enough food or poor quality food can cause anemia.  Right now, this is part of my problem because of the drought conditions we are facing.  The browse in the pasture just isn’t as good a quality as usual.  In addition, they want to eat the really short green stuff because it’s the only green stuff in there.  When it’s that short, they are more likely to pick up parasites.

Kids.  Let’s face it.  Those kids are little parasites.  When a doe is pregnant and nursing, she’s going to give her kids what they need.  It’s easy for them to become anemic when they have kids on them.

Kizzy’s triplets


Coloring.  If you look at a goat, it can be hard to tell if they are anemic.  They might look fat and healthy, but checking the inside of the eyelid might reveal another story.  The paler the lid, the more anemic the goat.  Sorry for the picture quality, but this isn’t easy to photograph on your own.

normal and anemic

If you have a light goat with pink tender parts, that can also be an indicator of anemia, but this isn’t as reliable as the eyelid or gums.

Bottle Jaw.  If the anemia is severe enough it can result in edema (swelling) that is commonly called bottle jaw.  Immediate treatment is required if the goat has become this anemic.

bottle jaw

Behavior.  As they become more anemic, they will be tired.  They will get a dull look in their eyes and just act sick.  It might be like a zombie just going through the motions without any zest for living.

Condition. This will lead to eating less and losing weight and poor coat quality.  Finally, if a goat is anemic, parasites can be a symptom.  If a goat is sick, they are more susceptible to picking up parasites.  It’s important to do a fecal because they might also pick up other types of parasites, such as coccidia.  It requires a different treatment for this type of parasite.


Wormer.  I always look to parasites first.  Pour them for external parasites and do the fecal for internal parasites.  Always do the check for internal parasites because even if you have a good worming regimen (and all goat owners should), it is possible that the parasites have become resistant to that particular wormer.

Remember that the chemicals only kill the internal parasites at one particular stage of development and they are likely to be just as bad in ten days to two weeks.  It will require retreating them possibly quite frequently.  Some vets will recommend treating twice with one wormer and then switching to a different class of wormer.

Weaning.  Once you get rid of parasites, look at those other areas.  If they have kids, can they be weaned?  Chances are the kids are not getting much from a goat that is anemic and spending time trying to nurse doesn’t help them or their maa.  Wean them, get them on goat feed, give them a bottle, provide them with hay.  It’s not going to help anyone leaving them together.

Diet.  Because they are weak and don’t feel well, they probably aren’t going to eat well.  If they don’t have much of an appetite, your vet can provide you with some B vitamins to stimulate their appetite.  I always recommend probiotics when a goat doesn’t feel well.  It can’t hurt them, and it will help them use whatever food you can get them to eat.

You want them to eat as much high quality food as possible, but you don’t want to make drastic changes to their diet all at once.  That will cause other problems.  You can add a small amount of a new food (like grain) and increase the amount of food they get gradually.  I’ve even added a cup of goat milk replacer to the diet of my big goats when they are run down.  Again, you have to add it gradually, and it shouldn’t replace hay or grass.  Nettles are a great multi-vitamin to help them build up strength.

You don’t want them out wandering in pasture using up whatever they eat.  Confine them to a fairly small space and bring the food to them.  It’s a perfect time to cut the scrub mulberry bushes out of the ditch or the little oak and maple trees from the fencerow.  I will cut grass from the ditch for them.

I would caution against just providing iron supplements.  I know my son was anemic, and I had to give him an iron supplement when he was a baby, but iron is just a tiny piece of the puzzle.  You can actually give them too much iron and that will become toxic.  The same is true of copper.  You need for them to build red blood cells, not just increase the iron levels in their system.  It takes (I hope I remember correctly) twenty-one days to really make a huge impact on the number of red blood cells through normal means~diet.  There are other supplements that say they help with anemia, but the body has to produce the red blood cells, and that takes time.

Blood Transfusion.  If you have a goat that is severely anemic, about the only real chance you have to boost the pac-cell count is a blood transfusion.  It is a quick boost to the red blood cells to helps support the body to heal and make more red blood cells itself.  Many vets don’t have the facilities to do this, and you might have to take them to a larger facility or teaching hospital.

Prevention is the best way to deal with anemia.  That isn’t always possible, but when it does happen early detection and treatment gives them a good chance for survival.

Linking to Homestead Barn Hop.

59 Responses to “Anemia in Goats: Causes, Symptoms and Treatment”

  1. Alica July 22, 2012 at 6:25 pm #

    There’s definitely a lot to learn about caring for different types of animals. You’re a natural teacher!

    • Teresa July 22, 2012 at 6:58 pm #

      That could be why I do it for a living. 🙂 I really do hope this blog can help people.

  2. Jen July 22, 2012 at 9:34 pm #

    Good post.

    • Teresa July 22, 2012 at 10:01 pm #

      Thanks. I always found it hard to find good information, so I figure I better share what I’ve learned.

  3. Kelly Reich July 23, 2012 at 8:49 am #

    I will have to print this out and save it. I hope to have goats one day and this is a great article and will be of great use. Thanks again. I love learning about goats and hope to be a good owner one day.

    • Teresa July 23, 2012 at 8:51 am #

      As much as you already care about them, I’m certain you’ll give goats a great home. 🙂

  4. Candy C. July 23, 2012 at 5:23 pm #

    Great post, Teresa; lots of good, useful information! Thanks!! 🙂

    • Teresa July 23, 2012 at 5:42 pm #

      Hopefully it can help someone before it’s too late to help.

  5. tbnranch July 23, 2012 at 8:43 pm #

    Great post, thanks so much for sharing your knowledge.

    • Teresa July 23, 2012 at 9:15 pm #

      Just hope it helps someone. I figure after all my girls have forced me to learn I should share it.

  6. Donna July 23, 2012 at 10:00 pm #

    What about copper deficiency and anemia?

    • Teresa July 23, 2012 at 10:28 pm #

      I can’t say anything about copper deficiency. I live in an area that is lucky enough to have sufficient copper in the natural surroundings.

    • Teresa July 23, 2012 at 10:34 pm #

      Here is an article that might be helpful.

      • Donna July 30, 2012 at 11:32 am #

        I have struggled with copper deficiency in our goats so am very familiar with it causing anemia, immune deficiency, etc. That is why I mentioned it.

      • Teresa July 30, 2012 at 11:44 am #

        I always appreciate input. It seems hard to find good information on goats, so I want to be able to provide that. Of course I’m no vet, so I really do appreciate input from someone who does know about it. Thanks. 🙂

  7. Cheryl January 27, 2013 at 6:27 am #

    I care for a friends goats a few days a week. The goats pens are swept daily. They are wormed. And a vet comes to give shots. They get clean water daily. But just a few months ago a few at different times have come down with baffling symptoms. This last time this poor girl had a hard time walking. Stilted gait almost like her brain could not work with her legs.Can hay cause this somehow? She is being treated with B vit. Shots and antibiotics. She looks like she is coming around. She is 9 years old. these goats are pets and treated with the best of care. Wish I could talk with someone with goat knowledge.. Love to all cheryl

    • Teresa January 27, 2013 at 8:11 am #

      The vet doesn’t have any ideas? I did just recently have a diagnosis of CAE in my herd, and she is about the same age as my girls. It does sound like that is a possibility. I wouldn’t know of anything in the hay.

  8. william roy (@williamroy1979) February 17, 2013 at 7:14 am #

    good blog 🙂 more info on anemia if required

    • Teresa February 17, 2013 at 7:32 am #

      Thanks, but not much relevant to goat anemia in that link.

  9. Morgan March 30, 2013 at 10:07 am #

    What if my goat is being like a zombie and he has white gums and his nervous system is weakening and he can not stand very well

    • Teresa March 30, 2013 at 10:18 am #

      Seek vet treatment immediately. He will need wormed and vitamins and possibly a blood transfusion.

  10. Amy June 21, 2013 at 11:47 pm #

    Hi, I have a doe that was born in 11/2008. In 2011 she kidded triplets and one doe was much smaller and ended up very sick, anemic, CD and other issues. By the grace of God and a good vet, she is still alive and doing well. This same doe just kidded triplets six weeks ago with the same small doeling. What are the chances that this is something genetic? From the start she neglected both these does, knowing something was wrong and left me to take care of them. Any ideas?

    • Teresa June 22, 2013 at 12:17 am #

      Sometimes, they just have a small one because of position in the uterus. They might not have as good a blood flow while they develop. Some goats know when they can’t raise all their kids and will only accept one (or two). That’s the way they make sure the stronger ones survive. I’d say take the kid and enjoy a bottle baby.

  11. tabitha July 1, 2013 at 1:24 pm #

    ive got 2 baby goats that are 2 1/2 months old. one died friday night after i dewormed them thursday. the one passed the worms saturday. but she still has diarrhea. and her eye lid is white. ive gave her 20 cc of pepto 3 times a day, 30cc of gatoraid 3 times a day and 2cc of penicillin twice a day for the past 3 days..should i take her to the vet?

    • Teresa July 1, 2013 at 8:03 pm #

      I would definitely take her to the vet. At very least, I would take a fecal sample. Coccidiosis can cause the diarrhea. Round worms can cause the anemia. It takes different drugs to treat them. It’s best to have the vet do a fecal to determine what meds to give.

  12. Jenny Mansheim September 23, 2013 at 10:47 am #

    I would highly recommend Pat Coleby;s book Natural Goat Care. I have raised my goats this way since 2007 and I have not had any issues with worms at all. I have however had an anemic goat last year due to the drought we had. She became uninterested in eating and very listless. I called the vet and he did just as I was going to do. He ran a fecal which showed no worms to speak of, and could find nothing wrong. He tubed her with oil and an electrolyte added, and gave her an antibiotic. I would have tubed her as well, but instead of an antibiotic I would have given a shot of vitamin C. She still did not improve. After searching all my books and the internet, I found she was cobalt deficient. She had all the symptoms. no appetite, lethargic and depressed. Her ears were also cold and her temperature was below normal. Any time a goats temperature is below normal they are going to die, unless drastic measures are taken. After giving cobalt diluted greatly in water then adding it to their own water, she began recovery. I noticed right away the improvement in the whole herd. When ever we have no rain and the season is dry, check their cobalt levels. Drought always causes a lack of vitamins and minerals in the land so they will not get the proper nutrients in their diet.

    • Teresa September 23, 2013 at 11:10 am #

      Nutrition is always important. I cannot recommend just treating with any mineral without some kind of vet consultation; however, because there are some that can be dangerous if given too much. For example, too much iron is bad. You don’t want to give B complex shots too often.

  13. Valerie D. Shepherd November 11, 2013 at 2:07 pm #

    i wish i’d seen this before my poor goat got sick. he’s doing a bit better now, took him to a vet obv…but this is real helpful, i would have known he was sick WAY sooner if i’d read this first

    • Teresa November 11, 2013 at 2:13 pm #

      I do hope it helps. You might want to check out my series on drug-resistant parasites (or at least Part III).

  14. bennie February 26, 2014 at 11:58 am #

    I am having all kinds of problems , especially with the little kids , some are small and look a little funny shaped like a dwarf , do know what causes this? ty for you help

    • Teresa February 26, 2014 at 12:10 pm #

      I really feel for you, but with no information, there is no way I can make a guess as to what is going on. Perhaps there is a vet nearby that could help you.

  15. ted March 2, 2014 at 8:44 am #

    Thank you for all your help I needed all this information.

    • Teresa March 2, 2014 at 9:01 am #

      I do hope it helps. Good luck!

  16. Annie Jones March 17, 2015 at 10:29 am #

    thanks for the info and the pictures of the products recommended. My goat was just diagnosed with this and the vet is treating him now. I thought he was just getting old but decided to have him checked out anyway. I thought he was so healthy because he has about an acre of land to roam on and I keep things pretty clean.
    HIs eyelids were pale and I’m hoping he gets much better w proper care. I found this info very informative. Thank you

    • Teresa March 17, 2015 at 1:49 pm #

      I do hope you have success getting your goat back to good health.

  17. Kayla May 19, 2015 at 11:04 pm #

    Sorry if I already posted a comment but I am not good with technology haha. How bad does the anemia have to be for a blood transfusion?

    • Teresa May 20, 2015 at 6:45 am #

      You need to contact a vet. They can tell you if the goat is that anemic.

  18. Jenny May 30, 2015 at 10:04 pm #

    Hi Thanks for the great information on anemia. I have a 9yr old doe down with it at the moment. She was seen by the vet 6 days ago and he gave her vit B and iron and some AB’s. She is eating sheep nuts, lucerne chaff, cut grass, pine branches, flax leaves and other branches cut daily. She is drinking well and shows a healthy interest in the food the only concern I have is she will not weight bear at all. In your experience is she likely to get up and how long may it take? She had the bottle jaw about 4 weeks ago but I didn’t know what it was and it was intermittent so I didn’t act on it. I have wormed her about 10 days ago as she was scouring and her feaces now look normal. Any advice would be appreciated. Thanks

    • Teresa May 30, 2015 at 10:14 pm #

      Her prognosis is not good, but having a good appetite is a good thing. If you haven’t done a fecal to test what type of parasite you are dealing with, I would do that immediately. Also, it is best to re-worm about ten days after the initial worming. She is also likely to get pneumonia without being up and moving about. If you can help her stand and keep her moving, she’s less likely to end up with pneumonia and stiff/locked joints. You might be able to make a sling out of a sheet to help support her. Good luck.

  19. Victoria Applegate July 23, 2015 at 6:43 am #

    I lost the mom to bottlejaw. Now 3 years later I’m looking her kid. She has a kid 3 months old. I have worked her twice since I noticed her lake is barely pink. I gave her red cell, but am afraid of od ing her due to high selenium levels. She is now almost all the way Down and crying. Can I giver her b12 chewable 3000mcg? She’s had 8MLK Monday of red cell, 5 on Tue and 5 on Wed, went down most of the day Wed. Was eating, isn’t now.

    • Teresa July 23, 2015 at 7:23 am #

      Contact a vet. I don’t know what those things are.

  20. ERIC July 24, 2015 at 1:42 pm #

    Hi Teresa. I have a young goat maybe 5 months old. We noticed a lump on her chin and was told it was bottle jaw from a local breeder. We then injected 1cc of ivermectin sub Q. She slowly got worse and was on her deathbed. I talked to a friend of mine who raises goats and he said 1cc was not even close to enough. He told me to give her 4 more cc’s. So we did this orally because I was out of town and orally was easiest for my wife. She is doing a lot better and is starting to gain some weight back. I did notice that her face is still kind of swollen but looks to be getting better with time. I was reading that there are four stages of larvae developement so to treat two more times at 10 day intervals followed by one more treatment at 30 days after third treatment in order to take care of all four stages of worms life cycle. I just wanted your opinion on this? Also how often do you deworm your goats for preventative maintenance? Thank You for reading.

    • Teresa July 24, 2015 at 2:42 pm #

      We always give the Ivermectin orally here. I don’t remember the dose, but it is higher than labeled for cattle or sheep. It is best to repeat it.

  21. Monica Zell August 18, 2015 at 3:27 pm #

    About a week ago I got two mini alpine goats. They eat lots of hay and I feed them grain twice a day. They are about 8 weeks old. My neighbour that has goats came to see them and when he checked their eyelids they were pale like a light pink. He said we should give them dewormer. So the next day I got oral dewormer and gave them some. It’s been a couple days and their eyelids are pretty much the same. Is there anything I can do to help them get more normal? I’m really concerned about it.

    • Teresa August 18, 2015 at 3:29 pm #

      Eyelid color is less reliable than a fecal exam. Lots of good green browse (nettles are awesome) will help. It does, however, take about three weeks for them to rebuild their red blood cells, so it will take time.

  22. nabimanya alfred March 2, 2016 at 7:52 am #

    ihave not understood well how accumilation of fliud comes about

    • Teresa March 2, 2016 at 3:24 pm #

      It’s caused by the anemia.

  23. Anonymous March 31, 2016 at 11:08 pm #

    I really need help my Pygmy goat had a miscarriage about a month ago and I wormed her w the pellets then w a liquid wormer and she is on deaths door I took her to the vet last Friday and he gave her a b12 shot some liquid stuff to get her sugar up and a good wormer I took her back today she is severely anemic and diabetic they gave her an antibiotic shot and an iv I have since gave her 2 more iv of the dextrose and the paste for hi energy

    • Teresa April 1, 2016 at 8:13 am #

      Sounds like you’ve got a good vet helping you. I do hope things turn out well.

  24. Anonymous June 3, 2016 at 11:11 pm #

    pls can my little goat survive without breastfeeding?

  25. Paul Thomas September 4, 2016 at 9:31 am #

    Very essential information. Thank you so much. How is the probiotic plus past administered?

    Am out of the US, how can I obtain some vitamin b? I believe I need to boost appetite in my goats, although no signs of anemia

    Thank you

    • Teresa September 4, 2016 at 5:51 pm #

      Probiotic paste is an oral paste. I have no idea how you would get vitamin B. I get it from my vet. Also, if they are not ill, I would not give vitamins without consulting a vet. Some vitamins (like B or iron) can become toxic if they get too much.

  26. alhaji bukar umara April 24, 2017 at 3:12 pm #

    what if I aspirate the nofluid within the swelling

  27. Sharon July 20, 2020 at 11:25 am #

    I have a momma goat that as went down she started loosing weight lose of appetite, so i started worming her and giving her bounce back, iron shots but now she doesn’t have the strength to get up what should I do. I can’t take her to the vet no job because of covid so I really don’t have the money to take her please should I do to get her up .

    • Teresa July 20, 2020 at 11:35 am #

      Stop giving her iron because you will kill her with too much iron. In order to properly treat her you need to know the cause. Without vets to assist in testing for copper levels or worm levels, the best thing you can do is give her a fully balanced goat feed (not just hay or grass unless you have tested the soil to know it has proper levels), take kids off of her (bottle feed if not old enough to be weaned), and give her body time to make red blood cells. It takes three weeks to fully recharge the blood. The only way to give her an instant boost to help sustain the body while she recovers is a blood transfusion (usually only done in vet teaching hospitals).

      • pamela September 24, 2020 at 8:18 am #

        hello Teresa I have 2 kidgoats 1.5 months old,recently I noticed that there eyes are getting swollen am afraid to call a veterinary to come and check them because last year the same thing happened to my kidgoats and immediately after they got injections they died on the spot,,please help what am I supposed to do now I don’t even know the cause

      • Teresa September 24, 2020 at 9:01 am #

        I am really sorry, but I have no idea how to help. What was the diagnosis? Are there other symptoms? Your best bet is still going to be working with a vet. Good luck.


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